Composers Datebook®


Composers Datebook - May 16, 2024


Today’s date in 1879 marks the birthdate of composer and pianist Régine Wieniawski, born in Brussels, the daughter of the Polish violinist and composer Henryk Wieniawski. Although a Franco-Belgian composer in style, she published her music under the Slavic-sounding pen name Poldowski.

She was admired by many of the most famous musicians of her day. Henry Wood programmed her works on Proms concerts, and in 1912, she gave a concert at London’s Aeolian Hall, that, quite unusual for the time, consisted solely of her own works with the her at the piano. That concert introduced 24 of her songs, many to texts of French poet Paul Verlaine.

The review in the Daily Telegraph noted, “nearly every song was a distinguished example of the art of word setting; and the sense of harmonic color is decidedly strong.”

The performance of her Violin Sonata, also on the program, was not as well received; the London Times sniffed, “the method which was successful in the songs was less effective in the Violin Sonata.”

Oh well, Poldowski’s Verlaine settings are still very much admired and performed, and her instrumental music, neglected for decades, is also getting renewed attention.

Music Played in Today's Program

Régine Wieniawski (aka Poldowski) (1879-1932): Scherzo from Violin Sonata; Clare Howick, violin; Miroslaw Feldgebel, piano; Dux 1840

On This Day


  • 1931 - American composer Donald James Martino, in Plainfield, New Jersey


  • 1910 - Russian composer Mily Balakirev, 73, (Gregorian date: May 29)


  • 1726 - Handel: opera Alessandro (Julian date: May 5)

  • 1889 - Massenet: opera Esclarmonde at the Paris Opéra

  • 1948 - Quincy Porter: Viola Concerto, in New York City

  • 1948 - Wallingford Rieger: Symphony No. 3, in New York City

  • 1966 - Ralph Shapey: Rituals, in Chicago

  • 1966 - Villa-Lobos: Sinfonia No. 9, by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy conducting

  • 1969 - Cage: HPSCHD, for amplified harpsichord and 51 tapes, in Urbana, Illinois

  • 1971 - Britten: opera Owen Wingrave, as a telecast on BBC-TV in England and NET (National Educational Television) in the United States

  • 1972 - Jaocb Druckman: Windows for orchestra, by the Chicago Symphony. This work was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1972.

  • 1974 - Bernstein: ballet Dybbuk, by the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center, with choreography by Jerome Robbins and the composer conducting

  • 1991 - Joan Tower: Concerto for Orchestra, by the St. Louis Symphony, Leonard Slatkin conducting


  • 1792 - The Teatro la Fenice (“The Phoenix”) opens in Venice

  • 1888 - Emile Berliner gives the first public display of his invention, the flat gramophone disk, at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

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